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North Complex West Zone: 2 Died Trying To Escape Fire In Feather Falls; 2 More Victims Confirmed Among Berry Creek Dead

CHICO (CBS SF) -- As the flames closed in on Butte County Mountain community of Feather Falls last week, two local residents tried unsuccessfully to outrun the North Complex West Zone fire. They were overwhelmed in their vehicles and are among the 15 who have died in the blaze, authorities said Tuesday evening.

Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea identified the two men as Jacob Albright, 74, and Randy Harrell, 68. Both men were found inside their burned out vehicles and were the first confirmed victims from the Feather Falls area.

Two other bodies were discovered in roadways among the wreckage of what was Berry Creek. One of this victims has been identified as Paul Winer, 68. Authorities were still attempting to identify the other man.

"On Sept 10th two individuals were found in the roadway on Handkirk Lane in Berry Creek," Honea said. "One was in a roadway about 10 feet away of what was an ATV. The other was in the roadway near another vehicle."

So far 10 of the 15 fire victims have become recovered in Berry Falls, which was ravaged by the flames.

"Brush Creek, Berry Creek, Feather Falls have all sustained substantial damage to not only infrastructure but also homes and additional types of structures," Cal Fire Operations Chief Ron Bravo said at Tuesday night's briefing. "It's going to be difficult to get in there based on all the damage."

Cal Fire confirmed that a total of 29 residential buildings were damaged with
489 destroyed. Only five commercial buildings were damaged, while 46 were destroyed. A total of 24 "other" structures such as barns and outbuildings were damaged with 247 destroyed.

In total, Cal Fire said 58 structures were damaged in the North Complex West Zone, with 782 structures destroyed. Cal Fire has set up the North Complex Structure Status online map for residents to check on their homes, but noted that it is taking time damage assessment to be completed, so not all residences have been entered into the system.

The full North Complex Fire has grown to a total of 273,335 acres and is 34 percent contained, officials said.

While the majority of the firefight along the 77,329 acre West Zone fire was progressing well with 29 percent containment, Bravo said there were two areas of concern.

Firefighters were facing a tough fight near Bloomer Ravine and Bloomer Mountain along the western edge of the blaze east of Cherokee. But the toughest fight, Bravo said, was in the rugged terrain near Lost Creek Reservoir and along the south fork drainage of the Feather River.

Cal Fire fire analyst Jonathan Pangburn said that area had groves of replanted 3-10 foot pine trees that were extremely susceptible to fire.

Aside from the firefight, Honea said his deputies continue to arrest individuals who are illegally in the evacuated areas.

An evacuated Bear Fire survivor was checking his home surveillance cameras from an offsite location when he saw trespassers on his property and called the sheriff's department.

Arriving deputies eventually took six individuals into custody on Tuesday afternoon. They were identified as Cristian Ayala, age 32, of Lincoln, Burt Floyd, age 50, of Lincoln, Guadalupe Garcia, age 42, of Lincoln, Guadalupe Garcia Jr., age 22, of Lincoln, William Peterson, age 61, of Berry Creek, and Anthony Gannett, age 61, of Berry Creek.

Deputies determined that the six had illegally entered the evacuation area to tend to an illegal marijuana grow.


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